Greek Dressing, with what Ina would call a "good" olive oil

July 1, 2009 · 27 comments

in greek,salads

I don’t know if you ever watch Barefoot Contessa or read any of Ina’s cookbooks, but she is always calling for a “good” something or other. Good chocolate, good olive oil, good peanut butter, even.  And well, I tend to agree with her. A dish is only as good as its ingredients, right? And when you are making something with simple and minimal ingredients (as I tend to do), it’s important that you use quality ingredients.

When it comes to olive oils for cooking, there are several I can use and have no qualms about. But for a dressing, or a drizzle, or something like chimichurri, it’s important to use a “good” olive oil, so that’s what I’m advocating for this dressing. I used an organic extra virgin olive oil by Gaea, which was great. I try to get Greek olive oils whenever I can find them, because I often prefer them.  If I don’t buy Greek olive oils (or have people bring them to me from Greece), I like Lucini, which is pretty readily found (at least for me), and I’d also recommend this Gaea oil, too.

And, I also would like to specify that you should use a “good” feta too (thanks for the reminder, Peter). This means, not the brick you find in the cheese section of the grocery store. You will probably have some kind of ethnic market around you that sells a better feta (for less money).  The one by me sells Bulgarian feta for $3.49/lb. and imported Greek feta for $6/lb. Do you know how much a pound of that not-so-good feta in the cheese case at the grocery store runs here? $12/lb.! Nonsense. If you don’t  have an ethnic grocery near by but have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods., both stores carry a Greek feta that’s creamier than the grocery kind, as well as a version actually sold in brine. They’re not quite as creamy and salty as delicious as the kind the old Greek dude at the ethnic deli will sell  you, but they’re pretty good.

Greek salads in the States are quite a bit different than they are in Greece. Most salads in Greece are “horiatiki” or village salads, and they don’t contain what seems to be the main ingredient in an American-Greek salad – iceberg lettuce. They are generally comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, red onion, kalamata olives, and sometimes green pepper or pepperoncini.  Seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and dried oregano, they are usually only drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and/or red wine vinegar.

Here in the States, most Greek salads have (a ton of) iceberg lettuce and are adorned with beets, pepperoncini, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sometimes chickpeas. (And, according to a friend in FL, ham. WTF?)  They’re dressed with a pretty standard dressing, often creamier than a typical vinaigrette.

Now, my dad makes the best Greek dressing on the planet. If you want to truly understand how good it is, this will be the test: I absolutely love it, and it has mayonnaise in it. That’s right, my most despised condiment, something I find to be incredibly vile. But what it does is give the vinaigrette a little body and creaminess without making it over-the-top creamy.

Since I pretty much refuse to buy a jar of mayonnaise, I decided what would make this vinaigrette a little creamier would be the addition of some Greek yogurt. As a bonus, it’s healthier, too. This is not my dad’s recipe (though I think the next time I’m home, I will ask him to scale it down to a non-restaurant serving), but contains many of the same elements. I’ve said before that I prefer a more acidy dressing, so I use more vinegar than oil, which is not the standard. If  you want something more traditional vinaigrette, flip flop the amounts of vinegar and oil.

Oh, and I know I can’t get anything past  you, dear reader, so yes, this is two different salads (with the same dressing). What can I say? I like salad in the summer because heat makes me cranky so standing over a hot appliance for a long period of time makes me even crankier. Our salads had romaine, tomato, cucumber, feta, kalamata olives, & pickled beats. One day we also had green pepper. The other day, we had sunflower seeds. And of course, I  served the salads with some warm Greek-style pitas (which are really more like a flatbread, as they don’t have a pocket.

Greek Dressing

Makes about 2/3 cup
print Printer Friendly Recipe

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1/3 cup red wine vinegar*
2 spoonfuls of Greek yogurt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil*
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the garlic, vinegar, yogurt and oregano until incorporated. Stream in the olive oil as you continue to whisk, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.  It’s best to let this sit for a little bit for the flavors to mingle before dressing your salad. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

*If you want a more traditional vinaigrette, use 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I prefer a bit more acid in mine.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

truenorth67 July 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

Elly, I love the dressing with the yogurt in it…gonna try this for lunch today.

PS…did ya use “good Feta”…ie Greek Feta? ;)

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elly July 1, 2009 at 10:08 am

Oh no! I did not specify a “good” feta. That is really important, so I am off to edit the post. lol.

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kanella July 1, 2009 at 10:22 am

Great post. I can’t wait for garden tomato season to profile a real Greek salad.

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patsyk July 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

I only recently discovered how much I love Greek yogurt, so I’m thrilled to see a salad dressing that uses it! I agree, in the summer a salad is so much more appealing as the temperatures increase.

I’ll have to look for a place to get “good” feta… I can imagine the price is better (as you mention), but also that it will taste so much better, too!

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brannyboilsover July 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Ina always cracks me up with her “good” tags.

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Kerstin - Cake, Batter, and Bowl July 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I can’t wait to try this, it looks delicious! I’m not a fan of mayo either, so this is right up my alley and I already have all the ingredients at home!

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Ivy July 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Elly you are so right. Simple cooking needs good ingredients and Greek cuisine is based on the good quality of products used. The dressing sounds delicious. Instead of using Greek yoghurt, I usually make the dressing with feta.

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Peter G July 2, 2009 at 4:54 am

I agree with Peter…nice touch with adding yogurt to the dressing…all looks delicious again!

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nina July 2, 2009 at 5:53 am

I had a Feta lesson from Peter too…and I loved it, because that is how we all learn, right? The dressing is to die for and the salads….well, even in winter, those are pretty tempting!!

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Bellini Valli July 2, 2009 at 7:46 am

Opa Elly!!!! Thank goodness we have several choices for excellent feta!!!

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Stamatia July 2, 2009 at 9:47 am

Other than the constant addition of iceburg, the only odd ingredient I’ve seen here in New Brunswick would be radishes…and it was at a restaurant owned by a Greek. My dad does iceburg at his restaurant but everything else is pretty standard (kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber, feta). My aunt in Greece seems to like to add green peppers. At home my parents often use romaine, but sometimes they just do tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions…and I never liked tomatoes and cucumbers growing up…and you can’t just sit and eat onions…so as you can imagine I have mixed feelings when it comes to horiatiki salata.

But the best thing in the world is to dip your bread into the juice at the bottom of the salad bowl. Hot damn is that stuff good!

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hsmom July 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I made this dressing finally. I used mayo (no greek yogurt on hand).

It is DELISH.

I always double the dressing so we have something to dip bread into. Used 1 tsp ea salt and pepper (for the doubled recipe).

I like that idea of adding a little anchovy.

When I make greek salad I use a few untraditional ingredients:
cukes
red onion
green onion
sweet peppers any color I have on hand
those pickled pepper rings (the ones for subs) chopped,
if no good tomatoes in season I use cherry or grape halved
radishes
TONS of pitted kalamata olives ( I buy a big gallon jar at our local Greek food distributor in Baltimore)
TONS of “good” feta (again from the Greek distributor – SO much cheaper to buy in bulk). I hate to say it but the Bulgarian is really good – so creamy.

When hubby is working outside all day he loves to take a big thing of it and afterward he actually drinks the rest of the dressing. Works like Gatorade to refresh him. Will be interesing to see if he’ll want to drink a dressing that has mayo in it!

Thanks so much for this! It really is good.

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hsmom July 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

oops – forgot to capitalize Greek once or twice!

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elly July 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Glad you liked it! Don’t tell, but I prefer Bulgarian feta most of the time. :)

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Katie July 2, 2009 at 10:37 am

Mmmmm….seriously my favorite meal and that dressing looks aaaaamazing!

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tobias cooks! July 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Looks good your salad. I prefer the use of lemon with this dressing, but besides that…DELICIOUS.

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Kevin July 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm

That is one tasty looking salad! I have been experimenting with dressings with Greek flavours recently as well.

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Niki July 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

Your salads look great and that dressing definitely sounds like one I have to try! Thanks for sharing! :)

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Jaime July 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm

yum that salad looks amazing!

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JoAnn August 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Why do you dislike mayo so much? Or is just jarred mayo that you hate?

Ina’s show this weekend was all about herbs. did you catch it? The only herb she does not grow is oregano, as she prefers the dry, which is in your father’s dressing. She thinks fresh oregano is too overpowering.

She has the most enormous herb garden I have ever seen, and huge plants. Maybe she is selling herbs on the side? LOL

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hsmom May 2, 2010 at 8:40 am

Can you recommend a brand of greek style pita or better yet would you provide a recipe? LOVE YOUR BLOG!

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elly May 4, 2010 at 10:39 am

I wish I had a good recipe but I haven’t tried making one yet! Every time I try to find a pita recipe, they have pockets and I prefer the ones that are pocketless as they are more authentic. A flatbread or naan recipe may be a better bet. Sorry, I wish I could help more!

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steve November 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm

looks good, glad i came across this. although i would add anchovies in the dressing. give it a little bit of a sea salty flavor.

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Tara November 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I made this last night. It was wonderful! I love the use of Greek yogurt. I also usually hate mayonnaise.

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elly November 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Glad you liked it, Tara!

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elly May 4, 2010 at 10:39 am

I wish I had a good recipe but I haven’t tried making one yet! Every time I try to find a pita recipe, they have pockets and I prefer the ones that are pocketless as they are more authentic. A flatbread or naan recipe may be a better bet. Sorry, I wish I could help more!

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